Music & Letters
ART, one may observe (as so many before us have observed), is of various kinds. There have been poets classical and poets romantic, poets academic and poets revolutionary, poets personal and poets objective, poete of the real and poets of the fantastic, poets to whom truth is but an aspect of beauty and poete to whom beauty is but the revelation of truth. All such distinctions have a certain value if they are not pressed too far. They imply, generally, not that certain types of artist are
... of artist are composed of entirely different ingredients, but merely that the same ingredients are mixed in widely differing proportions, and that one type or the other tends to emerge according to the composition of the mixture. That any of these types is absolutely the highest is impossible to prove, for the appreciation of them varies not only with the temperament of the individual critic (from which, try as he may, he cannot altogether escape), but with the mutations of age, race and clime. To-day, for instance, we are sick to death of the blatant empiricist and the self-glorifying revolutienary; many an instinctive rebel is turning conservative in self-defence, fearing lest all may eventually be submerged in a wild chaos of disorder. Verdicts that are passed to-day, therefore, will doubtless be revised in twenty, fifty, or a hundred yeare' time, when the wheel has swung round once more, and the problem before the artist is not, as now, to establish conventions, but rather to break them down. It is therefore presumptuous for a critic to attempt to assign to one artist a higher or lower rank than another on the ground that the type or class which he represents is of absolutely greater or less value. He can profitably snow, however, to which class (if any) he belongs, and perhaps indicate the measure of his achievement as a representative of that class, leaving further deductions to be made at will by the reader. That is not the only method of criticism, certainly, but it is a possible method, and one that seems applicable to the case of Maurice Ravel. At any rate, it is the method I am here going to follow; I shall try first of all to Bhow the type of artist that Ravel is, and then suggest how far he has been able to clinch the virtues and overcome the limitations of his kind. Many will feel inclined to say, at this juncture, that Ravel is not a type at all. but an individual. It is certainly true that elements usually conspicuous in very different types are present in his make-up.